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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Mar 22, 2023

SpaceX technology to help bridge digital divide

“Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasizes the importance of ensuring information technology accessibility and inclusivity. UN’s goal is to connect everyone, everywhere by 2030.

Digital connectivity will provide more opportunities for people, communities, and nations to flourish. Conversely, the digital divide can be the new face of inequality.

For instance, the digital divide can undo years of progress we have made in terms of advancing gender equality. Global figures show that women are 18 percent less likely than men to own a smartphone, and far less likely to access or use the Internet. Last year, 259 million more men than women were online.

The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has made it a priority to connect Filipinos to the internet. That is why the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) led by Secretary Ivan John Uy is prioritizing the provision of free Wi-Fi around the country, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs), through the BroadBand ng Masa Project.

As of 2022, we have a total of 4,385 live and operational Free Wi-Fi sites covering 73 provinces and 601 cities and municipalities, including in GIDAs. Of this number, 2,927 live sites are in public places, and 1,458 live sites are in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) institutions.

For 2023, the target is to increase the number of live sites to more than 15,000; and by 2025, the goal is to have 100,000 free Wi-Fi sites across the country.

In order to achieve our targets, we also need to diversify our solutions. The country’s geography as an archipelago makes it challenging to lay fiber cables or establish cell towers. This is where new technologies could fill in the gaps.

Starlink of Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) is now live in the Philippines. It is composed of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites that work by sending data via radio signals sent through space instead of through cables of optical fibers. The system also includes earth stations that are used to communicate with the satellites in orbit and provide high-speed internet to consumers.

It is expected to provide download speeds of up to 200 Mbps. 

Currently, it is comprised of about 3,634 LEO satellites. But SpaceX aims to have as many as 40,000 satellites to be able to deliver high-speed, low-cost internet to remote regions across the globe.

We are the first country in Southeast Asia to enjoy Starlink’s services, which will greatly support our government’s efforts to reach the unserved and underserved areas in the country.

Through such technologies, we are confident that we will achieve our targets not only in providing internet connectivity across the country, but also in advancing e-governance and our overall goal of transforming the Philippines into a Digital Nation.

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